By Lynnie Stein / September 2, 2022

Fermented durian, or tempoyak

Fermented durian, or tempoyak, is a traditional condiment in Malaysia and Indonesia often mixed with coconut milk curries or pounded with chilies into a spicy dip. If you get the chance to try durian you should – it is an obsession in South East Asia. In Malaysia, some use the leaves for medicinal purposes in healing fevers or jaundice.

It is the most awful smelling fruit on the planet, once you part the spikey skin, its sweet creamy texture and deep flavour make it one of the world’s great fruits.

Regarded by many people in south east Asia as the “king of fruits”. There is a popular expression to describe the durian’s creamy yellow flesh: it tastes like heaven but smells like hell.

  • Tempoyak can be eaten either cooked or uncooked. It is enjoyed mixed with freshly pounded chili paste to be eaten as a garnish with plain steamed rice, and used for making curry, in cooking seafood dishes like gulai tempoyak ikan patin (soup of Patin fish – a type of catfish).
  • Sambal Tempoyak is a Sumatran dish made from the fermented durian fruit, coconut milk, and a collection of spicy ingredients known as sambal.
  • When it is added to coconut cream, it adds another dimension in flavour and cuts through the creaminess of the coconut milk, and eaten with fish (normally salted fish), ulam (salads of raw cucumbers and other shoots).
  • After the fermentation, the pungent smell, or the repulsive smell of durian is reduced.
  • How you make your tempoyak is up to you, but here is a basic recipe to get you started
  • To prepare homemade tempoyak, simply add salt to durian flesh (without the seeds).
  • For every cup of durian flesh, add a tablespoon of salt.
  • Keep overnight in an airtight glass container in a cool, dark place.
  • Give it a stir the next day, place in an airtight jar and leave for 3 to 4 days.
  • The tempoyak is now ready.
  • Chilled tempoyak can be kept for up to a few months.
  • If it turns too sour for your taste, add fresh durian flesh.


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